Illegal practice widespread, says TRAFFIC, an arm of WWF-I, New Delhi

Nearly all residents of the city would have caught sight of a cage of colourful birds at some point or the other.

Not surprisingly, TRAFFIC, an arm of the World Wide Fund for Nature–India (WWF-I), New Delhi, has listed Chennai as a hub for trade of exotic pet birds.

Shekhar Kumar Niraj, head, TRAFFIC, says, macaws, cockatiels, Amazon parrots, conures and cockatoos are some of the exotic birds in great demand among pet lovers. The price of each specimen varies between Rs. 1 lakh and Rs. 1.5 lakh, depending upon the size of the bird, he says.

Dr. Niraj says the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 has no provision to take action against those keeping exotic birds as pets.

So the forest department cannot initiate action or confiscate these pets.

However, the country is party to the Convention on International Trade on Endangered Flora and Fauna (CITES), which does not allow trading of some species of birds.

Observations by WWF-I reveal trade of exotic birds has international ramifications as the network gets spread across the globe.

Some of the exotic birds that land in the city reach Kolkata and from there, go to Bangladesh and other Southeast Asian destinations, says Dr. Niraj.

Birds transported by train

Traders collect birds such as white-headed muniyas, hill mynas and a couple of other birds from forest areas in Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Himachal Pradesh. The collected specimens are transported through train to southern parts of the country, says Dr. Niraj.

The collection begins in the month of September and goes on till March. Specimens of hill myna chicks are sold at Rs. 750 per bird, while the adult ones fetch up to Rs. 4,000.

Similarly, muniya chicks fetch up to. Rs 750 each, and an adult bird costs around Rs. 1,500.

In order to curb the trade, WWF-I plans to organise awareness programmes for Railway Protection and Government Railway Police personnel. This will help in bringing down the illegal pet birds trade, says Dr. Niraj.

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